‘Buckeye onslaught’: Northwestern embarrassed in humbling 52-3 loss to No. 4 Ohio State


Josh Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern cornerback A.J. Hampton chases after Ohio State’s Master Teague III en route to a 73-yard touchdown. The Buckeyes demolished the Wildcats 52-3 Friday at Ryan Field.

Jonah Dylan, Gameday Editor


On a chilly night where Northwestern was outclassed by a program operating miles and miles away in the college football stratosphere, Paddy Fisher stepped to the postgame presser wearing a Rose Bowl pin he’s had since last summer.

“I’m always looking at this rose just as a team goal, as an individual goal, to help these guys accomplish what we want to accomplish, what we set to accomplish at the beginning of the season,” he said. “And maybe that door has been closed, but it’s not the end of the world. We’ll be back.”

Less than 11 months after the Wildcats (1-5, 0-4 Big Ten) met Ohio State with a Rose Bowl berth on the line, the two teams met again. But NU never showed any signs of life in a crushing 52-3 loss at the hands of the No. 4 Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) as superstar quarterback Justin Fields tallied 194 yards and four touchdowns in what amounted to an easy tune-up before next week’s showdown with No. 6 Wisconsin.

“There’s been a change of leadership, I’d say,” quarterback Aidan Smith said. “And that’s not to say the leaders on the team aren’t doing a good job, but I think we need to do a better job of holding players accountable, holding our teammates accountable.”

Smith got the start at quarterback over Hunter Johnson and didn’t do much to inspire confidence that the competition is in any way settled. The junior finished 6-of-20 for just 42 yards and an interception in a dismal performance. Johnson — NU’s highly-touted five star transfer — was nowhere to be seen, even in garbage time when Andrew Marty replaced Smith and promptly threw another interception.

The result was never really in doubt. NU won the toss and deferred, giving Fields and Ohio State’s high-powered offense the first possession. The Heisman candidate found Chris Olave for an opening-drive touchdown to give the Buckeyes a very early lead.

The Cats managed to drive into Buckeye territory and countered with a Charlie Kuhbander field goal to pull within four, but that was the closest they’d ever come. Ohio State exploded in the second quarter, buoyed by two J.K. Dobbins scores and another Fields-Olave connection in what coach Pat Fitzgerald called the “Buckeye onslaught.” To add insult to injury, Blake Haubeil hit a 55-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Buckeyes a 31-3 lead at the break.

NU’s defense had a few opportunities to stop Ohio State but just could not get off the field on third down. Ohio State converted five of six first quarter third downs, including a key Dobbins run on the game’s opening drive. Dobbins — who entered the game second in the country in rushing yards — tallied 121 yards on 18 carries, including a 68 yard run right through the heart of NU’s defense.

“They care so much,” Fitzgerald said. “They’re a great group of guys. That’s why my heart breaks for them. This is…I’ve had a lot of special groups of guys. This is up there and we’re just gonna keep coaching positively, we’re gonna be relentless working fundamentally and just as the snowball kinda goes in a negative way, you can flip that thing around in a positive way.”

The game was effectively over and fans were already heading for the exits when the teams came out after the break. Fields threw his fourth touchdown of the game and Ohio State added two garbage time touchdowns to run the score to an absurd 52-3.

NU has now lost four straight, all with awful offensive performances. Bowl eligibility is suddenly looking more and more like a pipe dream, a crushing reality for a team that was 60 minutes from Pasadena less than a calendar year ago.

“It’s been a challenging beginning of the season, but there’s a lot of ball left,” Fitzgerald said. “And that’s what I challenged our guys with. Let’s flush it, let’s leave it here and let’s not look in the rearview mirror. Let’s look forward and get our seniors into the postseason. And we gotta do that by going 1-0, and we’ve got to get ready to do that next week.”


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @TheJonahDylan